Who I Help and Why: Attorneys
I invite you to step into my coaching practice and experience some of what I live in my work with lawyers, judges and law students…
An attorney, in my office for her first coaching session, states; “I love the law, but I hate my job. I think I am going to quit and go back to graduate school for education.”
The Chief Counsel of a large health system has not yet returned to work a year after telling the management team, “I am going to take a leave of absence for 6 months or kill myself.”
A struggling 3rd year associate, tells me she recently started medicine for depression and anxiety, but doesn’t want to keep taking it, because it won’t fix the real problem.
The Executive Director of a large law firm uses her session to process the recent suicide of a senior partner in the firm, and how to deal with the attendant issues.
A family lawyer, who feels under constant assault, uses her sessions to strategize ways to deal with nasty clients and opposing counsel, so she can maintain her own health and professionalism.
A partner in a large law firm tells me she has decided to leave the law after 20 years in practice, because she is “over it”.
A judge shares recurrent nightmares that his judgments have caused more harm than benefit to families that come before him.
A litigator experiencing competency issues, shares his misuse of alcohol to cope with the stress and sleeplessness of working 16 to 20-hour days.
A public defender tells me he is totally overwhelmed by the demands of work, parenting two special needs children and an unsupportive spouse.
You Are Not Alone
You can probably relate, in some fashion, to one or more of these brief snippets. And, you are not alone! For many lawyers, these experiences characterize the state of practice today. Your lives are too stressful. It is time to address issues that have long simmered beneath the surface and chart a well-being pathway forward. I am delighted that the ABA has not only recognized the problem but championed the shift!
A Good Lawyer vs A Healthy Lawyer
According to the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, to be a good lawyer, one must be a healthy lawyer. Yet, the profession “is falling short when it comes to well-being” with studies showing that too many lawyers and law students (upwards of 30%) experience chronic stress, and high rates of depression and substance use. The report goes on to state that these findings are incompatible with a sustainable legal profession and raise troubling implications for many lawyers’ basic competence. The current state of lawyers’ health cannot support a profession dedicated to client service and dependent on the public trust.
The fact that this esteemed body, the primary professional organization in your field, has come forth with such clarity and forceful recommendations, ought to validate any one of you in the field struggling to make your work actually work for you! It is not your fault that you are struggling. The difficulty is built into the very fiber of your being, from the process of getting into law school, to your years of training, to pursuing licensure, the demands of practice, the culture of your workplace, to the environment we all inhabit. The problem spans many dimensions and requires all of us to partner in ways henceforth not done, to transform from a state of stress and distress, to one of well-being, joy and professional reward.
Create the Life You Want
There is an extremely high rate of burnout/depression among your cohorts. The structure of the legal system promotes conditions ripe for these difficulties. Your industry puts pressure on you to work excessively, and bill ever more. You must take the client’s position, no matter how disagreeable that might be, and put your own feelings aside. You often experience relationship challenges, because there is a disconnect between what makes you good at your practice, and what makes your life work. You are meant to be smart but not sensitive, brilliant but not caring, powerful and not weak! Sadly, those dictates, are toxic to your mental and physical well-being.
The Need for Help
I have always been drawn to helping lawyers. I seem to understand and relate to your difficulties. Maybe, because I have had some of the same ones. Perfectionism, an ability to work to the point of exhaustion, an attachment to winning and creating a fabulous argument, the capacity to hyper-focus to the point of ignoring self-care and balance, and the ability to get into a negative and pessimistic place before realizing it! Like you, I am vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and the ability to lose perspective. And, it has been super hard for me to admit difficulty, “failure”, or the need for help.
Lawyers, like physicians, experience a very high rate of depression, anxiety, substance abuse/dependence and suicide. Admitting challenge or defeat, hopelessness, or need, is seen as a weakness. So, you often tough it out to the point of crisis, or even death! Having a private place to get help, support and guidance can make the difference between a life well-lived, and a life prematurely disrupted or ended!
Let The Healing Begin
I am committed to doing my part to make your life better. I love working with attorneys and hate the pain that you are in right now. It can be different. There are private, safe, individual solutions to it all. But the first and foremost step, is bridging the isolation you feel, to let the healing begin.
Find Your Safe Place
You need one-on-one safe places to share your struggles, outside the universe where it is reportable, or public in any way. I offer that in an Attorney’s Coaching experience. No insurance, no medical record, no diagnosis! You need validation, education about what helps, tools, and a champion or two! You need forums to share and support one another. I offer CLE supported Retreats, Speaking, and Group Support/Training Sessions.
I have worked with attorneys for over 3 decades. And, I welcome the opportunity to help you in your self-care project. I love learning from those I champion, and look forward to learning from, and with, you! Please contact me to see how I can help.
With gratitude for what you offer us all,
A Quick Look at Wellness and Satisfaction
In 2016 the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation conducted a study that included nearly 13,000 currently practicing lawyers. In addition to the results outlined below, the study also found that lawyers struggled with many other difficulties, including social alienation, work addiction, sleep deprivation, job dissatisfaction, and thoughts of suicide.